Thursday, May 06, 2010


Today Te Ururoa Flavell's Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot. The bill isn't online yet (it'll go up at around 15:00), but it requires all local authorities to establish Māori wards to represent their Māori population.

This is a goal I generally support. In Parliament, the Māori seats have ensured that Māori have had a voice. That's not true of our local authorities. I haven't found any solid stats on Māori in local government (the Social Report reports on the number of women on councils, but not the number of Māori), but anecdotally it is low. And that's something that needs to be corrected.

The problem is that Flavell's bill does it in a very stupid way. Currently councils can establish Māori wards, and if they do, their number is determined by the number of people on the Māori roll in that district. Flavell's bill would change this to being determined by the number of people of Māori descent. However, voting in those wards would still be limited to the 60% of Māori on the Māori roll. Which means that those wards will be systematically undersized, and those Māori systematically over-represented.

Flavell's justification for this change is that

This change is made because 40% of the Māori population is under 18 years and is therefore excluded under the current formula.
But this is simply incorrect. The current formula uses the definitions from the Electoral Act 1993, which specifically includes people under 18. So those people would already be represented (though unable to vote).

I don't think this is an attempt at a stitch-up; rather its likely a mistake born of not reading the law closely enough. But the result is a deeply flawed bill. Fortunately, those flaws can be resolved at select committee.